Pre-Update Nine 2146-2150 CE Sol The 22nd century approached its midpoint, and across human-controlled space, momentous events were happening that would shape the coming decades, for better or worse. Somewhat paradoxically, Sol itself was relatively tranquil. Turmoil in the distant colonies would spur the powers of Sol into action, but on Earth, all was peaceful. One of the notable events of this time period was an international conference on reversing the damage to Earth's ecology which had been inflicted in the previous centuries by humanity's industrialization and development. Representatives of all of Earth's powers attended the meeting in Sao Paulo, in the SolFed state of Brazil, in mid 2146. The People's Republic of China, surprisingly, was a significant appearance there, pointing out (quite truthfully) that some of the most ecologically blighted landscapes on Earth were inside Chinese territory, and China asked for international assistance. It was left unsaid that this ecological blight was a direct and completely foreseen result of China's unscrupulous environmental policies, lasting well into the 22nd century, but in another surprising move, China seemed sincere in its plea for aid, as far as it went. The PRC conceded to allow international observers to ensure that any funding received was put towards environmental restoration. By 2150, aid was already flowing to Chinese restoration projects, under the watchful eyes of SolFed and IntCom observers. Many states within the Solar Federation also saw an increased influx of aid and consulting, both from their federal government, and from the biologists of the Interstellar Commonwealth. The international cooperation sped and streamlined the efforts in these places, and additionally, much of the knowledge and experience gained from the terraforming projects throughout human-controlled space was applied to reviving these states' damaged ecologies. Several corporations with similar fields of study also contributed to the project, most notably Orion Industries. The project continues to be a source of cooperative spirit and goodwill among Earth's population as it gains momentum, though truly significant effects will take decades to develop. Another notable international development was the Interstellar Commonwealth's courting of the nations that had remained outisde the Solar Federation. These nations were former members of the Islamic Confederation, on which America and Russia had spearheaded the assault during World War III. The European Union had also participated in the war, but only after the leaders of the Islamic Confederation had threatened global nuclear terrorism, and now the Interstellar Commonwealth seeked to use that difference to attempt to induct these states into its own sphere of influence. The results were mixed - most of those nations flatly refused a global offer to join the Commonwealth, and the others were generally ambivalent at best. In 2149, Jordan joined the Interstellar Commonwealth, but the larger states that would make more valuable additions to the Europeans' power bloc remained elusive. The Solar Federation's operations in Sol continued much as before. Consolidation of the member states progressed steadily, and the buildup of military spacecraft continued despite growing concerns among the member states that the budget would be better spent on the less developed areas of the Federation. The Solar Federation also instated its Martian and Mercurian colonies as their own member states - the colonies on Venus and the gas giants were as yet too small to achieve this status, but plans were made to grant them statehood in the future as well. This measure had wide support across the Solar Federation, but elsewhere, citizens clamoring for independence were less content. Infinitas Discontent had been growing in the American colony of Infinitas over the past few years. After the independence of Bacchus, many American colonists began to believe that they should also be considered an independent state. Up to this point, that desire had mostly been tempered by the flow of subsidies from the United States and the prestige of being America's first and only colony. However, since the founding of the Solar Federation, much of America's colonial budget was being spent elsewhere in colonized space, and the xenophobic elements of Carmentan politics began to carry more weight. The sending of a colony ship to found a new colony in the newly discovered system of Liberty didn't help matters, either. As a result of this, two fateful events happened quite close together. First by a few months was the signing into law of explicit independence criteria for all colonies administrated by SolFed states in late 2146. Aside from basic human rights requirements and existing structure for self-governance, there was also the requirement that the colony's GDP reach two thirds of a percent of Earth's. This was the requirement that Carmenta had yet to meet, but it was projected that it would be met sometime within the next hundred years. Some of the Carmentan agitators for independence were satisfied by this, but to many of the more dedicated malcontents, it wasn't enough, and they continued with their course of action - in 2147, Carmentan rebels launched a coordinated attack on the local government. The signal to start the attack was the springing of a trap set for the SolFed frigate Relentless, in which it was lured into the range of a nuclear warhead of indeterminate origin by a mock pirate assault. The blast disabled most of the frigate's systems, opening it to an attack by a flight of improvised rebel corvettes. After the destruction of the Relentless, rebels attacked the American garrison all across Carmenta. However, public support of rebel action was greatly overestimated by the rebel leaders, mostly due to the recent guarantee of Carmenta's eventual independence by the Solar Federation itself. Most of the rebel attacks were quickly squashed by the local garrisons and the rebels imprisoned or killed in combat. However, a few of the smaller settlements were lightly defended enough, and had enough rebel sympathizers, that the local garrisons were wiped out and the towns used as bases for the rebel movement. The largest settlement under rebel control by far was the state capital of Jefferson, where the rebellion was centered. The majority of the city was pro-rebellion, and a wide radius around the city quickly came under rebel control. At that point, an equillibrium was reached. The American garrison forces were stretched thin and bruised by the planetwide attacks, rendering them unable to mount an assault without risking losing more territory to rebel attacks. On the other hand, the rebels had ended up with far less territory than they had anticipated, and a full planetary takeover now seemed impossible. The international reaction was mostly predictable. Europe, and by extension the Commonwealth, was careful not to take sides, only decrying the violence itself, rather than the motivations behind it. Opinion among the people of the Commonwealth themselves was somewhat split - on one hand, the Solar Federation was not terribly popular in Commonwealth territory, but on the other hand, Carmenta had an unsavory reputation as well. The Bacchan government was somewhat less impartial. The Republic of Bacchus made it clear from the start that they did not support Carmenta's violent rebellion, and openly denounced the actions of the rebel government. However, this may have been a political necessity, as suspicions and animosity were already strong in the Solar Federation regarding the source of the Carmentan rebels' armaments - it was quite likely that they had been smuggled through Bacchus in some form or another. Of course, China had little to say either way regarding the conflict. And as to the reaction of the Solar Federation itself, clearance was quickly given to send troops, ships, and lots of equipment to Carmenta to help the Americans suppress the rebel actions there. The Carmentan stigma skimmer was under rebel control, but the Bacchans allowed the Solar Federation to use theirs (for a small fee, of course), and by 2148, the Federation's counterattack against the rebels had begun. Carmentan space was taken back by the Federation so quickly that it couldn't really be called a battle. The rebel crews of the improvised corvettes were asked to surrender once, and when they refused, they were quickly destroyed from afar by the SolFed fleet's coilguns. The Carmentan skimmer was retaken shortly thereafter - though the occupying rebels refused to surrender the facility itself, it was retaken with minimal damage to the equipment. The fleet brought with it reinforcements - carriers loaded with soldiers, supplies, and variable fighters for close air support. With that aid, the Americans launched a large scale counterattack against rebel strongholds, and all but Jefferson City itself were retaken by 2149. Jefferson provided a dilemma, however. The city was one of Carmenta's major population centers, and its population was mostly pro-rebel. It would be a tough nut to crack with conventional assault, and any sort of artillery would cause widespread destruction and loss of life, as it would expose Jefferson's citizens to Carmenta's hostile conditions. The city was cut off from supplies by the American blockade, but it was self-sufficient enough to survive for a long time. Negotiations with the rebel leaders proved fruitless, and though even the rebels themselves were beginning to become demoralized by the siege, a solution was not in sight by the end of 2150. As to Bacchus, it managed to avoid getting embroiled in the Carmentan conflict. SolFed ambassadors let their displeasure be known regarding Bacchus's lax standards for importing and exporting weaponry, but Bacchan assurances that no more weapons would get into rebel hands were enough to avoid any major incidents. In any case, it became a non-issue once the Federation blockaded the rebels on Carmenta. Bacchan public opinion was somewhat more divided than the government's official line, but it was still broadly anti-rebel, even while resentment towards the Solar Federation existed. On an entirely different note, the most recent group of SolFed ecologists dispatched to Bacchus made their report in 2150 that the planet had passed Terra Approxima benchmark. This announcement was only a formality, as Bacchan air quality and biological health had been increasing for some time now, but it was still a good milestone. The triumph of human science over the bare inhospitability that Bacchus had once possessed was a point of pride for the European and Bacchan scientists that had worked on the terraforming process over the years. Mars was expected to reach this benchmark as well within a matter of years. Commonwealth Sphere The late 2140's were overall a somewhat difficult time for the Commonwealth. Space pirate activity had been increasing steadily over the past years, and while the Federation's advanced and growing fleet was a major deterrent to pirates, and the PRC's strict customs made it difficult for pirates to attack in the first place, Europe was left vulnerable to attack. However, there was more to it than that. The pirate attacks seemed to be organized by some outside force, ramping up when in 2146, two nuclear weapons (the first to be used by pirate forces so far) were detonated near the docked ships at Valhalla and at Soyuz, destroying Soyuz's only frigate and much of Valhalla's small navy. As if that were a signal, pirate attacks quickly escalated across Commonwealth space, must most notably in Valhalla and Soyuz. What information could be gathered about these pirates' motivations was inconclusive - implications ranged from Carmentan extremists to Olympian separatists, and Chinese subversives to just some unscrupulous company wanting to make some cash. The European Union, its Solar navy already practically a non-factor, dispatched more ships across the Commonwealth to deal with this new threat. Valhalla was the system with the highest pirate activity, and with its decimated navy and thriving trade, it must have appeared to be a ripe target in the months after the initial pirate attack. However, Valhalla was also one of the main centers of Commonwealth research, and the drones sold by the state corporation Euro Espace faced their first real test. The Valhallan drones had two major advantages over conventional patrol craft. Firstly, they could easily be packed aboard cargo ships along with the standard cargo. With this, every convoy could have a small escourt to fight off pirate attacks, or at least slow them down enough to buy time for reinforcements to arrive. Secondly, they were unmanned, so they could be sacrificed by the dozen without any moral qualms. This second point was not quite as good as it might seem, however; Euro Espace was already running with a very small profit margin, and it had to sell drones at a substantial loss in order to avoid having the Valhallan economy collapse entirely. In the end, though, the incident was a major triumph for the Valhallans. Though the pirate attacks started strong, and it seemed as though the navy would be completely overrun, the European reinforcements and drone assembly lines shored up Valhalla's defenses enough that the surge in piracy was over by the end of the decade. Valhalla was simply too tough a target to crack. Neighboring Olympia saw even less trouble from the surge. Olympia had lobbied hard over the past few years to have a larger defensive navy, and in the late 2140's, it paid off. The few pirate attacks the system faced were generally dealt with quickly and effectively, but the main reason the system fared so well was that its navy acted as a deterrent. This allowed Olympia to focus more on internal development even as the pirate attacks reached their peak elsewhere. Immigration and growth were greatly slowed immediately after the attacks on Valhalla and the unrest in the Infinitas system, but as both situations stabilized and reliable trade with Sol was reestablished, Olympia continued to thrive. As the success of the Valhallan drones became clear, Olympia devoted much of its industry towards producing reinforcements for the neighboring systems - it was still dwarfed by mainland Europe in its production, but the trip from factory to battlefield was much shorter for Olympian craft. The less populated systems of Aria, Carpathia, Lucenta, Avis, and Pirenia were too small to draw much pirate attention, though they too were hit somewhat by the surge in piracy. The persistently heavy subsidies to Lucenta, Avis, and Pirenia kept them growing despite the chaos, though there was resentment in the more heavily hit colonies about Europe's priorities not being straight. Carpathia and Aria also grew steadily, especially in the infrastructure required to keep supplies moving to the growing colony at Tyrelia. Distant Tyrelia itself also had a notable lack of pirate activity compared with the other Commonwealth systems. Much of this was simply due to the great distance that pirates would have to travel in order to establish themselves there, and the Carpathian and Arian customs officials were especially vigilant against attempts to smuggle weaponry further into Commonwealth space. So, Tyrelia was free to undergo its exponential growth without much pirate interference. The planet Aries was the most Earthlike in Commonwealth space, which had allowed both its population and its industry to grow quickly. The late 2140's saw further increases in both of these fields for Tyrelia, as well as a further increase in the size of its standing army, as a reaction to the pirate threat. The system hit hardest by pirate attacks was by far Soyuz. With the frigate Barcelona destroyed by the 2146 nuclear attack, only improvised defense from the colonists could be mustered to fight off pirate attacks, and that didn't last long. The reinforcements sent immediately from Sol were stranded two months into their stigma jump when Soyuz's stigma skimmer went dark. A set of disposable stigma drives had to be manufactured and sent from Sol for the reinforcements to finish their journey. By the time of their arrival, the situation in Soyuz had completely deteriorated. For one thing, the main settlement on the planet Logos was completely cut off from the smaller settlement on Soyuz's third planet. As a result, that other settlement was running low on food and other supplies, and was under martial law due to the frequent pirate attacks. Most of the pirates in the system, however, were focused on the more juicy target of Logos itself. Like most worlds with Terra Approxima status, the colony on Logos had grown out as much as it had grown up. With no need for pressurized environments, small settlements outside the major cities dotted the countryside wherever the conditions and resources were best, and it had simply been impossible to defend it all with Soyuz's limited military when the pirates could attack from space wherever they wanted. The year spent without control of local space for the colonists at Soyuz was a valuable lesson on the importance of the control of space in the 22nd century. As soon as they arrived, in late 2147, the European reinforcements set about rectifying the situation. A pitched space battle resulted - the pirates had brought enough firepower, outdated and varied as it was, to fight on the same level as the small portion of the Commonwealth's navy that was available. Still, the Europeans were successful in destroying or driving away all of the pirate ships around Logos, but not without taking some losses of their own. Most of the European ships were then sent to guard a much needed convoy from Logos to the smaller colony on Soyuz's third planet. A simmering struggle for control of the space around Logos continued through the 2140's. The pirates' resources and resourcefulness both seemed inexhaustible, and more surprises were to come. In 2149, a new pirate craft was seen, modelled after the stigma skipping mecha used by some of the other powers, apparently using material raided from Soyuz's destroyed stigma skimmer. This became an especially infamous threat - while the Commonwealth navy could whittle down most pirate forces at least as much as they themselves were whittled down, this craft was virtually impossible to pin down by conventional means. By 2150, there had been multiple incidents where it had simply popped into the middle of a European formation only to cause some havoc before disappearing again just as suddenly. Despite these difficulties, the Europeans began working closely with the citizens of Soyuz to construct a new stigma skimmer in orbit to allow for easier travel between Soyuz and Sol. It was not yet complete by 2150, interrupted by the constant pirate threat. The fighting on the ground before Logos's upper atmosphere was secured had been rough. When the defenders had been able to engage the raiders, losses had been heavy, and when they hadn't, the citizens had been at the mercy of the pirates. All told, the defenders and citizens of Soyuz saw thousands of casualties, several hundred of which were civilians simply missing and unaccounted for. However, even more than the pirate craft in space, the raiders caught on the ground when the reinforcements arrived were fighting a losing battle with nowhere to run. This made them desperate, too - the defenders of Soyuz had a guerilla war on their hands. The political ramifications of the Soyuz incident were significant. Obviously, the citizens and government of the Soyuz Union were irate about not having had more defenses when the attack started, but there was also some inevitable backbiting among the colonies about who had gotten how much support when it was most needed. The massive Solar Federation navy a short stigma jump away didn't escape the thoughts of the citizens of Soyuz, either - there were even some advocates of appealing to the Solar Federation to help the defense effort in the Soyuz Union. Frustratingly, the motivating force for the pirates also remained unclear, despite the many prisoners that were taken by the Soyuz defenders. Most by far were just doing it for the cash, and even the captured officers knew nothing more than that they were being supported by an outside force. Finally, the Commonwealth colony at Nu saw substantial pirate attacks shortly after the nuclear attacks at Valhalla and Soyuz, but these were significantly mitigated thanks to the growing Sonty garrison in the system - it was in the megacorporation's best interest to keep the shipping lanes in the system clear, of course. Events on the Commonwealth planet of Isis were mostly undisturbed by the turbulence elsewhere. The colony continued to receive generous subsidies and fared quite well compared to many of its sister colonies across European space. On the other side of the system, the Sonty colony on Ra was similarly prosperous. The colony's growth was slower than its Commonwealth neighbor's, but much of the growth it did experience was in the form of facilities and personnel transferred from Sol, sowing the seeds for Ra to replace Earth as Sonty's main base of operations. Some other minor corporations also moved facilities to Ra, to better conduct business with Sonty Corporation. The late 2140's also saw Sonty making overtures towards the local Chinese government of the much smaller colony on Nu's furthest planet, which Sonty had christened Bastet. The Chinese had refused all of Sonty's attempts to set up a facility on that planet as of 2150, citing their rights under the CAUST treaty. Chinese Sphere Across Chinese space, it was mostly business as usual in the late 2140's. Each of the major colonies conducted its business more or less untroubled by the turmoil elsewhere. Standing aside from the political troubles of the time, China was able to focus on sending supplies and colonists to its established colonies. The economy and infrastructure of mainland China were beginning to grow stagnant due to the great drain of maintaining the Chinese colonies' exponential growth rates, but regardless, the Communist Party's focus remained firmly outside Sol. Of all the extrasolar colonies founded by Earth's powers, Damen had the highest population density. Its importance to the Chinese colonization effort had led to a high growth rate despite the inhospitable environment, which resulted in a large population packed into a relatively small artificial habitat. In 2146, the colonial government set about reversing, or at least slowing this trend. Recognizing that such a high population would be neither sustainable nor particularly useful, it proceeded to enact more restrictive immigration criteria, and shuttling some of the extraneous population to the more colonist-hungry systems of Xiaoping and Tiantang. Damen retained a positive growth rate as of 2150, but it was much more moderate than it had been before the reforms were enacted. Damen also continued to develop as a center of Chinese military research. In 2149, a prototype stigma-skip-capable variable mecha was produced at a Damen facility, though any information more detailed than that was highly classified. Incrimental advancements in many military technologies continued to take place at Damen, to be used across Chinese space. By this point, many of China's finest minds resided in Damen's highly specialized, highly secure facilities. As the two Chinese colonies in the Xiaoping system developed, the differences between them became more pronounced. The larger colony on the habitable, aquatic world of Xu Fu was unable to compete with distant Tiantang in terms of habitability, but the system's greater proximity to Damen and Sol made Xu Fu a more convenient destination for commerce and transportation with the other colonies. Xu Fu gained a reputation as somewhat of a resort colony for those highest of Communist Party officials that could afford to travel from system to system on a regular basis. The other colony at Xiaoping, the frigid world of Enlai, was very different. Where Xu Fu had a traditional, if somewhat loose (by Chinese standards) government, Enlai was being structured essentially as a military state, with all the colony's functions geared towards Xiaoping's armed forces. If Damen was becoming the heart of China's colonial navy, then Enlai was becoming the heart of China's colonial army - Enlai-trained special forces were deployed across Chinese space as of 2150. One of China's newer colonies was the hot-yet-habitable world of 192-209D, which hadn't yet built enough infrastructure to compete with nearby Xiaoping, but still showed potential for the coming decades. In 2148, a Chinese stigma skimmer was completed in the neighboring system of 182-123, greatly shortening the distance that had to be travelled to reach 192-209, and paving the way for further growth there. Haiyaoliangge and 039-240, the colonies that led to Tiantang, flourished as Tiantang grew. Tiantang itself hadn't yet closed the population gap with Xiaoping as of 2150, but it was getting there. However, not all was completely in harmony there - the colonial government's attempts to liberalize the system's governmental and economic structure were met with some disapproval from distant Earth's Communist Party. The reforms were not completely ineffetive, but the increase in tension between the colonial and mainland Chinese governments wasn't inconsiderable either.